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172 PROCEEDINGS OF THE AMERICAN 



HOSMER ALLEN JOHNSON, M. D. 



N. S. Davis, M. D., Chicago, 111. 



Dr. Hosmer Allen Johnson, of Chicago, was born in the town of 
Wales, in thewestern part of New York, October 6, 1822. He died 
at his home, in Chicago, February 26, 1891. His father was Samuel 
Johnson, a farmer, though possessed of but little property, and his 
mother was Sarah (Allen) Johnson, a woman of fair education and 
excellent qualities. During the son's infancy the family moved 
to Boston, N. Y., near Buffalo, where they continued to reside until 
1834, and where he gained the first rudiments of his education in 
the common district school. When only twelve years old the family 
moved to Almont, Michigan, and commenced on a new and un- 
broken farm, where for the next six years he worked and enjoyed 
no school privileges whatever, and yet, by the valuable aid afforded 
by the mother, at the age of eighteen years he commenced teaching 
a small district school. His success was such that by teaching in 
winter and working in summer he was enabled to enter the academy 
at Romeo, Michigan, in 1844, and in two years qualified himself to 
enter the sophomore class at the University of Michigan, 1846. 
In 1848 his college course was interrupted by an attack of pulmonary 
hemorrhage, probably resulting from mechanical injury, and which 
caused him to visit St. Louis and Vandalia, where he spent the fol- 
lowing year, supporting himself by teaching school and still pur- 
suing his college studies. He returned to the university in the 
spring of 1849, passed his final examinations satisfactorily, and re- 
ceived the degree of bachelor of arts. While in Vandalia, 111., he 
became intimately acquainted with Dr. J. B. Herrick, who was 
practicing medicine in that place, and in whose office he first began 
reading medical books. In the autumn of 1850 he entered Rush 
Medical College, at Chicago, and in 1852 received the degree of 
doctor of medicine from that institution. The same year he received 
the degree of master of arts from the University of Michigan. Thus 
during the twelve years following the time he left the farm, at the 
age of eighteen years, he had solely by his own earnings completed 
both a general classical and professional education. Immediately 



SOCIETY OP MICROSCOPISTS. 173 

after receiving his medical degree he became associated with Dr. 
William B. Herrick, professor of anatomy, in editing the North- 
western Medical and Surgical Journal, and the following year he was 
appointed lecturer on physiology in Rush Medical College. He 
rapidly acquired an excellent reputation both as a teacher and prac- 
titioner, and in 1855 was appointed professor of materia medica, 
therapeutics, and jurisprudence in the same college. In 1857 he 
accepted a transfer to the chair of physiology and general pathology, 
which he filled with signal ability until the spring of 1859, when he 
resigned and severed his connection with the college, much to the 
regret of his colleagues and the patrons of the school. In the mean- 
time he had continued more or less educational work, and from 1852 
had been an active member of the Chicago Medical Society, the 
Illinois State Medical Society, and of the American Medical Asso- 
ciation ; and since 1853 he had also been a member of the Ameri- 
can Association for the Advancement of Science. Directly after 
leaving the faculty of Rush Medical College, Dr. Johnson was in- 
duced to unite with other parties in organizing the medical depart- 
ment of a new institution, called Lind University, on the basis of 
longer annual college courses and strictly graded classes. The new 
medical school was opened in the autumn of 1859, with Dr. John- 
son as president of the faculty and professor of materia medica and 
therapeutics. On account of the financial embarrassment of Lind 
University, the medical department was permitted, in 1864, to adopt 
an independent organization, with the name of Chicago Medical 
College ; but he continued to fill the office of president of the 
faculty, and with constantly increasing popularity he filled succes- 
sively the chairs of histology and general pathology, and of public 
hygiene and clinical medicine. He was also, during all the time, a 
member of the medical staff of the Mercy Hospital. In 1865. on 
account of the recurrence of a severe attack of pulmonary disease, 
he was induced to spend several months in Europe, but returned in 
time for commencing his college duties the next year. His health, 
however, again failed, and he deemed it necessary to seek the bene- 
fits of a foreign climate. Consequently, in 1866, he resigned his 
official positions in the faculty of the college, but was induced to 
accept the office of president of the board of trustees and the hon- 
orary title of emeritus professor of general pathology and public 
hygiene. Rest and change of climate enabled him to return home 
the following year with health greatly improved, when he was per- 
suaded to accept an associated professorship of principles and prac- 



174 PROCEEDINGS OP THE AMERICAN 

tice of medicine, with the limited duty of lecturing only on the 
diseases of the throat and chest. This position he continued to hold 
until 1881, when, on account of frequent recurrences of bronchial 
irritation, apparently aggravated by the exercise of lecturing, he 
finally withdrew from all active teaching, but retained the title of 
emeritus professor of principles and practice of medicine, the office 
of president of the board of trustees, and an active interest in the 
prosperity of the college until his death. 

Dr. Johnson's mental activity and breadth of culture did not allow 
him to limit his work to the college duties and to his extensive pro- 
fessional practice, but he took an active interest in almost every 
important public enterprise. He was one of the founders and active 
supporters of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, the Chicago His- 
torical Society, the Chicago Astronomical Society, and the Illinois 
Microscopical Society. He became an early member of the Amer- 
ican Public Health Association, and was its president in 1889. For 
several years he was an active member of the Illinois State Board of 
Health and of the National Board of Health. During the war, from 
1861 to 1864, he was the chief medical adviser of the governor of 
the State, by whom he was commissioned as adjutant general. He 
several times visited the hospitals and troops in the fields. After the 
great Chicago fire of 1871 he became one of the most efficient and 
untiring officers of the Relief Organization. For several years be- 
fore his death he was consulting physician to the Mercy Hospital, 
Cook County Hospital, St. Luke's, and Michael Reese Hospitals, 
and the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary; and in all except the last 
named he had previously served on the active staff of attendants. 
He was one of the secretaries of the American Medical Association 
in i860; served as secretary of the Illinois State Medical Society 
six years, and then as president. His reports, papers, and addresses 
to these societies were numerous and valuable. He became a mem- 
ber of the Masonic fraternity in 1853 and rapidly advanced to posi- 
tions of honor and influence. In 1855 he was orator of the Grand 
Lodge of Illinois. The next year he aided in the organization of 
the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar, and in 1861 was an 
active member of the Supreme Council of Boston. Although thus 
engaged in a great variety of work, he was nevertheless a very busy, 
skillful, and much-loved general practitioner of medicine. His 
council was sought over a wide district of country, and few men 
have ever more justly commanded the confidence of those who em- 
ployed him. 



SOCIETY OF MICROSCOPISTS. 175 

He was married to Margaret Ann Seward in 1855, and with her 
has spent a most congenial and affectionate domestic life. They 
were blessed with a son and a daughter. The latter died but a few 
years since, but the mother and son survive. The son, Frank Seward 
Johnson, was associated with his father in practice, and is well known 
as the professor of general pathology and pathological anatomy in 
the Northwestern University Medical School (Chicago Medical 
College). 

It has been well and truly said by another that " though Dr. John- 
son's youth was a battle with adverse fortune, and his later life a 
struggle with ill-health, his days were filled with work that was well 
done and that gained for him honor and fame ; and his death makes 
us, members of this Society, mourn the loss of one of our most 
esteemed and illustrious associates — a man of the broadest culture, 
a man of science, a physician of eminence, an eloquent teacher, a 
public-spirited citizen, a man of the greatest moral worth, a noble 
Christian."